Letter to Mrs. Herbert Hoover 1929
Compiled September 25, 2011
by Jean Leeper
New counter on September 13, 2011
Below is a letter written by Angeline (Angie) Riggs in 1929 to the First Lady, Mrs. Lou (Henry) Hoover, sent to the White House. Below the letter I have traced Angie back to her parents.
In the above letter Angie says she is 73 years old and that her father was an active member of the underground railroad that sent runaways to Salem, Iowa. She does not tell of the time period, or where in Missouri they lived.
In the 1850 census of Johnson Township, Scotland County, Missouri; a young William Pennell(?Penwell), 24, lives with a young lady Electa, age 21. It looks like his 18 year old brother Samuel lives with him. On the 1858 plat map a Wm. W. Penwell owns 40 acres in Township/range T67R11, section 25, which is in Union Township, Scotland County, Missouri. Section 25 is up against Johnson Township. I cannot find any of the family in the 1860 census; but he registers for the draft sometime between 1863-1865, during the Civil War, in Johnson Township, Scotland County, Missouri. His name is crossed out and a note added that on Feb. 13, 1865 he is a non-resident.
The 1870 census shows the family living in Grundy County Missouri. William is 45, Electa is 43, Angeline is 14, Willie is 11, Martha is 9, Mary is 6 and Harriet is 4. Monroe Rige 15 lives with the farmer next door. By 1880 the family group has moved to Putnam County, Missouri and Angeline goes by Angie and is 24 and a teacher. Her mother is also a teacher.
In the 1900 census for Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, I find Monroe Riggs, born June 1855 and Angeline, born Jan 1856 with daughter Phariba, born April 1885. Angeline is the mother of only one child and they have been married 17 years. In 1910 Monroe and Angeline live in Kansas in Labette County, Montana township. Their married daughter Phariba Kirby and two young sons live with them as does mother-in-law Electa A. Pennell(?Penwell), who is now 81 and a widow. Monroe Riggs died May 27, 1913 of TB at Webb City, Jasper County, Missouri. Angeline Riggs is living in Kansas City in the 1930 census.
The above is shown to help show that I believe I have found the correct family.
You can see from the above that we can determine that Angie's father lived in Scotland County from ca 1850 - 1865. So William Pennell(?Penwell) could very well have been active helping slaves escape. Johnson township is very near Iowa and adjoins Clark County, Missouri. Several Dagge/Daggs (?which spelling) families live in this township, in the 1860 federal census. Do you recall the Daggs slaves the fled from Luray, Missouri to Salem in 1848?
Incidents involving fugitive slaves in Salem date back to 1839 when two fugitive slaves were captures and taken back to Missouri through Salem. The residents of Salem reportedly challenged their authority to capture the slaves, who managed to escape with some likely assistance while they were preparing for a hearing.
Louis Jones would write in, Quakers of Iowa, 1914, page 188-189:
"...Salem, but twenty-five miles from the Missouri line, and surrounded by numerous wooded streams well adapted for hiding, proved for the Negro a most advantageous place at which to stop for food. The unfailing help which they there received soon became widely known. Could he but reach the town where lived the people of plain grey clothes and broad brimmed hats, the fugitive was assured of safety.... What with the heavy loads of human freight concealed within hollow loads of hay or beneath grain sacks filled with bran, and the strange proclivity of this Quaker folk for midnight drive to unknown mills or markets, large numbers of fugitive slaves were spirited away to safety by that mysterious route which justly gained the name: "Underground Railroad". Month after month and year after year with Quaker-like precision this work went on at Salem--not a single slave being retaken, it is said, once he had reached this community (Jean added: 'and hid'). The children in the homes were trained to ask no questions, much less to answer any asked by strangers. They were supposed to have no eyes or no ears, concerning this solemn business. Among the adults vague but well understood terms were used in conversing on this subject; and while it is certain that this grave concern was frequently the subject of guarded discussion in the two Monthly Meetings, still on the records no written reference to the subject is to be found."
Map of Union and Johnson Townships, Scotland County, Missouri
Section 25 is where William had his land. Section 25 is two numbers down, in middle of map, from Iowa, 67-11.
Clark County, Missouri joins on the right side of map and you can see Iowa is just above.
Where the gray box is, on the lower right side, is just west of Luray, Missouri.